Walking has a way of putting me in an introspective mood. Actually, I quite enjoy that. I do some of my best thinking while I am walking. I wonder if perhaps that is because there is something literal about getting from here to there that suggests the same pattern to the mind – something that allows the thinker to arrive at a conclusion at roughly the same time as the physical destination. Either way, quiet moments to do little but think seem to come infrequently for me, so I take them when I can get them.
Running is another favorite pastime of mine. It’s an acquired taste, you might say, one that I didn’t like at all when I was younger. In fact, I was pretty adamant about hating it. Running for the sake of running seemed pointless. It wasn’t until I became very proficient in walking long distances that running held any interest for me. I realized that I could cover more ground in the same amount of time by simply increasing my pace a small amount. In that moment, I started to turn the key that unlocked my understanding. I saw running, not as arriving at a destination quickly, but a faster way to enjoy the same journey. It’s a subtle difference, I know, but still significant. Certainly, speed is a part of the experience – and so is agility, freedom, ability, performance, fitness, and the runner’s high – but you can’t leave out the journey, for me, or the picture isn’t complete. I love the things I get to see and experience along the way.
Writing, as you might guess, is another interest I have acquired that has surprised me. In most of my younger years, writing was something I could do, but I didn’t enjoy it. Like running, it was a means to an end, and I wanted it to end. I wanted to hurry up and be done so I could do something else. Once I realized that writing complimented some of my other interests, such as thinking and being creative, I looked at this task differently. I changed. Writing was not just something I did, it became something I am. It became a journey.
For the past eleven years, much of my little spare time has been poured into a single, but large, idea – a story. Most of the time, the idea sits on a shelf and neither walks nor runs. It doesn’t even crawl. The idea just sits and patiently waits for a chance to travel. For now, the story is lucky if a hint can peek through my other responsibilities the way glimpses of early morning sunshine spill through planks in a fence to punctuate shadows on the sidewalk. It’s as though I am walking along, with nothing exceptional to note, when a spark of an idea flashes into my mind, quickening my step. Those moments are still cool. The inspiration is a different type of energy that helps me to run.
Getting back to something you haven’t done recently can take more time than the task alone. When I don’t work on my story frequently, I feel a difference. I know the story well but there is a lack of familiarity that has everything to do with mindset. I have to be in the right frame of mind without a lot of distractions. With limited time, I need something that can transport me quickly. What I need is a faster vehicle to get back into my story. In this case, creativity is not the destination, it is the journey.
A few years ago, I realized the vehicle I needed was something that would remind me of where I left off. Better yet, the something should remind me of how I felt when I last stopped so I could pick up right where I left off. That something became a lot of somethings. I created maps, cultures, histories, sketches, models, sculptures, and drawings of characters. I even developed some simple musical themes that reminded me of places or people in the story. Then when I had some time to stop and think, instead of crawling back to my story, I could run and spend less time becoming familiar again.
More recently, I decided to go running on a trail I hadn’t been to for a very long time. It was the place where I first started walking a lot. It was also a place where I had spent hours and hours thinking about my story. I hadn’t been on this trail for more than a few minutes when I realized that I was humming some musical themes from my story. In fact, I was thinking of a few of the characters and had refined a new plot twist, almost without giving any thought to it at all. I was grateful to find that my faster vehicle was still in great working order. With the right conditions, it almost had a mind of its own. I was amazed that the mental vehicle I had chosen had that much potential ability.
Connections are powerful. I have discovered many, many times this year the influence of beautiful connections. Some, like precious metals, you expect to tarnish over time. If you own brass or silver, you also likely expect to do some polishing to keep them looking nice. Yet, there are other connections, like gold or platinum, that do not tarnish over time. They come with a greater cost and are more precious because of it. Those connections are still active when we are distracted by the planks of life’s fences. I am so grateful for these!
Looking back, I find that many of my interests come from my Dad. He likes to take long walks, he likes to write, and he is a deep thinker. He and my Mom taught me to walk, but I didn’t appreciate the love of walking for many years following. I didn’t pick up my love of writing by writing with him. However, watching him for many years taught me, inspired me, and gave me a passion for it. He taught me spelling, grammar, and he proofread and edited many papers for me while growing up. While I didn’t pick up the love for those things at the time, I have always loved him, and that connection has tied me to the things that he likes in a very powerful way.
Prayer is another pastime of mine that has taken years to develop. It is one that connects me to my Father. The interesting thing to me about this pastime is that I haven’t arrived yet – I am still working on it – and yet it has always been rewarding and fulfilling. Because I haven’t arrived, or mastered prayer yet, this leads me to believe that, like other things in my life, prayer is a journey and not a destination.
Father in heaven knows all things, and He knows the end from the beginning. He asks us to pray to Him, not so He can learn about us, but so we can learn about ourselves and how we can return to live with Him. As we pray to him, we can discover what it is we are really thankful for. We have an opportunity to count our blessings, rather than just be thankful for all of them collectively. Prayer also allows us to counsel with God, or rather receive counsel from Him. Each of us have a story to write. Father is more than willing to proofread and edit our decisions, but only when we ask or seek it from Him.
Fear, treasure, and love are powerful motivators for doing good. Fear may get us started, and treasure may make things more interesting, but love is the most precious and powerful motivation. In fact, it is the only motivation that is powerful enough to truly help us become like our Father. All other things may fail, but the pure love of God will not. This being the case, how can I get beyond crawling in my prayers? How can I learn to walk and then love to run? What can I do to make this connection more precious? I believe the answer is in my choice of vehicles.
So that I am not mistaken, please allow me to clarify that I am not trying to pray faster or get to heaven any quicker. What I hope to do is find a better vehicle for myself that makes my prayers more meaningful. I want to look forward to my prayers as my favorite part of the day or night, and not just something I need to do to earn a reward. If prayer is a journey, and there is lot to see and learn along the way, I want to make the most of my prayers. Just as I did with my story, I want to pick up right where I left off without losing any familiarity. What I need are the right type of somethings to help me, almost without thinking.
I feel we, as Father’s children, are very fortunate that He has already created such vehicles to pull at our hearts. He has spoken with prophets for centuries to write down His words and teachings. He has inspired servants who have taught us to study these vehicles every day. We have been given churches and temples as places to worship, after preparing our own hearts as places for worshipful service. Priesthood authority has been given to do His work and His will on earth as though He were here Himself. We are led by revelation as inspiration comes through the gift of the Holy Ghost. When we use each of these to reconnect with our Father, they will turn our hearts toward Him. Almost without thinking about it, we will begin to love the things that He loves because we are consciously thinking about the things that will connect our hearts to His. Doing so will make our prayers more meaningful and will enlarge our capacity to love as He does.
Prayer is one of the most powerful connections we can have with Father. Patiently He waits for us to turn our hearts to Him. I may pray often, but if I don’t pray with real intent and focus, I feel a difference. I feel distant. The act of prayer alone may not take much time, but reconnecting after taking a leave of absence does. To feel connected, I don’t have to pray on my knees constantly, I just have to keep a prayerful attitude in my heart. By doing so, I am able to find my way more quickly. More importantly I am able to find and keep the spirit with less difficulty. Then it becomes easier and easier to remember the change of heart I once felt. It stays fresh in my heart and mind as I turn my thoughts toward Him.
Each of us has a story to write with our personal decisions. I know my editor is willing to make all kinds of suggestions on how I can be happier, and how I can feel more of His love, but only when I am ready. Once I reconnect with Him in prayer, it is up to me to decide when I will walk and when I will run. Father lets each of us set our own pace. He has also promised to guide us and comfort us along the way. In short, He has done everything he possibly can to make the journey rewarding and fulfilling. All that is needed is for me to decide to return to my story and begin writing.
This is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am solely responsible for the views expressed here.